Automated Memory

“Apparatus” is Flusser’s unavoidably cumbersome term for the mesh between humans and devices, an interface so familiar we rarely notice. When the enmeshed devices also mesh with one other, the resulting structures shape — channel and limit — any one person’s capacity to think, remember, analyze, or plan independently, which is to say, they restrict freedom. The first, and in some ways clearest model Flusser offered was the mesh between a camera and a human being: the photographer’s eye and brain and hand are plugged into the system of camera design, marketing, with all its complex feedback loops, assumptions and ideals — and this is the condition of possibility for a photograph. By now, the apparatus is everywhere and nowhere, so familiar as to be scarcely perceptible. Only now and then am I startled by some willing new surrender of conscious capacity. A few weeks ago, a reviewer at the Guardian gave an enthusiastic endorsement of the way Google Plus software had ordered and presented his family photographs. The resulting show, he wrote, was not only an adequate, but in fact an exemplary expression of his own memory — a memory of his own daughter. “How Google Photos, introduced 2015, has become one of the most emotionally resonant pieces of technology today.”  

Image: Andreas Feinginger, The Photojournalist, 1955, MoMA, New York.

Author: Nancy Roth